2016 Brander Los Olivos District Sauvignon Blanc


After the film “Sideways,” it’s easy to associate Santa Barbara with Pinot Noir. And early-ripening Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are suited to this area because of the odd way that the valleys run from west to east, wafting the fog many miles from the coast toward inland vineyards. But the Brander Winery never hitched its wagon to Pinot Noir. Rather, Fred Brander has become the undisputed king of Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc. Born in Argentina but raised in Santa Barbara, Fred Brander began in the mid-70s by planting some red Bordeaux varieties as well as Sauvignon Blanc. But when his first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc won the gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair, the first wine from Santa Barbara ever to win that honor, he realized his property in Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley had great potential for the great white grape of Bordeaux and the Loire. Not only was the Eastern side of the valley significantly warmer than other areas, the soil in many spots was distinctively gravelly, in the manner of Graves, the famous white wine district of Bordeaux. Hence, Brander has focused squarely on cultivating Sauvignon Blanc grapes and making wines that accentuate the minerals and are as crisp, clean and balanced as the best French Sav. Blancs.  Today Brander makes six separate bottlings each year, which range from his best-value Santa Ynez (a perennial restaurant by-the-glass favorite) all the way up to his tete de cuvee "au Naturel," a wine inspired by his close working relationship with Loire master Didier Dagueneau. Of his recent efforts, Fred has said, "We are looking for more refined wines, and we are doing much less oak than in the past." Low-yielding vines, minimal handling, low or no oak, and a focus on the purity of the fruit is what Brander is now all about. 


2016 marks just the second vintage in which this awesome Sauvignon Blanc is bottled under the new Los Olivos District AVA, 11 years after Fred Brander himself first proposed the idea for the appellation. While the Santa Inez Valley is generally a cool region, the diverse array of microclimates and soils means that conditions differ significantly in different locales. Sandwiched between the warmer Happy Valley and the cooler Sta. Rita Hills, the Los Olivos District hits a sweet spot for Sauvignon Blanc. In 2016, August and September nights were cool enough to slow down the maturation of the grapes. Yields were moderate and the quality exceptionally high. This wine sets a high bar for Sauvignon Blanc, delivering pure pleasure with an exuberant nose and fruit flavors that last long into the finish. Enjoy this wine even with blue cheese or a Caesar salad. 


The grapes were destemmed and crushed prior to fermentation in stainless steel. About 5% was aged in neutral oak for additional complexity.

Tasting notes

91 points – Wilfred Wong; 90 points – Wine Enthusiast. Aromas of apple, orange zest, dried herbs, and wet rock precede a palate that delivers flavors of lime, grapefruit, nectarine and guava. There’s much pleasure in the crisp acidity and rich, full body. 


Los Olivos District (Santa Barbara)


Sauvignon Blanc




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